Electoralism/Democratism

Barack Obama and the Disengagement of American Leadership

by Peter Zeihan on November 1, 2022

Many people are surprised when I saw that Barack Obama was the second-smartest American president of recent history, after Bill Clinton. I should also say that in no way serves as an endorsement or that I think either was necessarily successful.

President Obama in particular seemed not only ill-suited to but ultimately disinterested in engaging with the management of the massive, sprawling bureaucracy that is the US Federal Government. Some presidents relish the cooperation–or combativeness–of engaging with the legislative branch. Obama? Not so much.

Was he engaged with his cabinet, suggesting policy and working to overhaul the federal bureaucracy? No. What about rebuilding his party? Famously not. Was he interested in managing the post-Bush, post-Iraq global order? Absolutely not.

After four terms of presidents who were charismatic and personable leaders, the Obama presidency presented a very “the man in the ivory tower” vibe–one that I’d argue laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s runaway popularity with so much of the American electorate.

Leave a Reply